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Leadership Weekly

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Rising Above

You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. — Genesis 50:20

Everyone faces adversity from time to time. A person is fired from his or her job. Bills are due, but there's no money to pay them with. A beloved family member dies. How we handle these situations can say a lot about our faith in the Lord.

In the case of Joseph, his problems began the moment he fell for his brothers' "we've got a really neat pit to show you" trick. They sold him as a slave to Ishmaelites passing through the area in an attempt to rid themselves of "the dreamer" (see Genesis 37:19). Eventually, Joseph was able to gain a good standing with Potiphar and was placed in charge of his house. But later, Potiphar's wife attempted to seduce Joseph and falsely accused him of adultery. Joseph ended up in prison as a result.

Joseph had plenty of opportunities to cry out about the injustice he was facing. He had chances to complain about the treatment he had received from his brothers. He could have become bitter when the king's cupbearer was released from prison and forgot about him. These actions and attitudes would have reduced Joseph to hopelessness.

Instead, Joseph allowed himself to be used by God to interpret Pharaoh's dream. Pharaoh removed him from prison and placed him in charge of Egypt, where he organized a plan to store grain before the famine occurred. Finally, Joseph was reunited with his brothers. What was intended for bad was used by God for good.

Obstacles have the ability to take us out of contention, but we also have the opportunity to rise above them. We can cry, complain, and live in misery because of our struggles. Or we can react like Joseph--allowing God, in his timing, to bring something good out of our circumstances. Are you allowing God to help you land on your feet? read more

Now Playing

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. — Philippians 4:8

The human brain is an amazing component of our bodies. With it, we are able to sense, to recognize, to understand, and to remember countless things. Our brains keep track of countless important details (like heartbeats) that keep us alive. All without conscious decisions on our part. Even with the most advanced products of scientific research, we have not been able to rival what has been given to us by God with the gift of life.

One thing we must be careful about is the type of material we give our brains access to. Since the brain is like a sponge, it retains all the information it receives. A few years ago, Denny Gunderson, former president of Youth With A Mission, asked an interesting question: Would you feel comfortable if your thoughts were to be shown on a movie screen for all to see?

What we think about can have a very strong impact on the way we handle a situation or view a series of events. Thoughts lead to actions. And, if left unchecked, these can turn into negative character traits rather quickly.

The Lord wants our minds to be pure and useful for the tasks he has planned for us. It is difficult to serve effectively when a person is considering thoughts of revenge, envy, or other wickedness. Paul understood this and challenged the Philippian church to think about things that were honorable, true, lovely, admirable, and worthy of praise. This way, their actions would match their thoughts.

Would you feel comfortable if your thoughts were shown on a movie screen for all to see? It's not too late to allow God to perform some "editing" so our thinking is in line with his. The question is whether you are willing to let him do it. Can you take the list from Philippians 4 and note three or four items for each of those traits? read more

A Breathing Lesson

But despite Jesus' instructions, the report of his power spread even faster, and vast crowds came to hear him preach and to be healed of their diseases. But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer. — Luke 5:15-16

Our society wants us to spend every waking second of our lives doing something. As a result, the pace of life can become quite daunting. There are clients to meet, deadlines to make, calls to return. We run at 10,000 RPM for the entire day, then make our way home and have to deal with cooking dinner, washing laundry, and getting the kids to bed.

We must learn to slow down in life. Racecars cannot be repaired while on the track, so why do we think we can "be still, and know" God (Psa. 46:10) when we cannot find the time to take a lunch break?

But there is a way to slow down when we're running full throttle all day and night. It's called margin. Put another way, it could be considered a reserve or simply breathing room. Jesus thought it was important enough that he made it a routine part of his life on earth--he recognized his earthly limits and took time to get recharged.

Consider this: When you don't have any margin in your life, you cannot fully accomplish the things God reveals for you to do.

There are numerous ways we can introduce breathing room into our lives. We can learn to say no when we're already overloaded with tasks. We can anticipate the unexpected and add some time to the front end of meetings. We can take opportunities to laugh, cry, and rest. We can also take time to help others in ways that allow them to experience breathing room in their lives.

Don't move so fast that God's voice is lost in the everyday. Take time to slow down and breathe so you can grow and get to know the Savior as a friend. read more

The Secret of Peace

Don't love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, "I will never fail you. I will never abandon you." — Hebrews 13:5

Contentment lies not in what is mine but in whose I am. When I come into a relationship with God through his Son, Jesus Christ, I understand whose I am and what I have. Envy causes one to look horizontally--at what others have--so we are never satisfied. We pursue the god of money, thinking of what it can buy us. Contentment invites us to look vertically--at God. When we look in his direction, we know that he is enough.

Contentment is the secret of inward peace. It recalls the bare truth that we brought nothing into the world and we can take nothing out of it, including our money. Life, in fact, is a journey from one moment of vulnerability to another. So we should travel light and live simply. The reality for most people is that we have enough--whatever enough is. We would be well advised to be content with what we have.

Being content with less stuff and not envying those with a lot is a process that will take more than a quick prayer or reading a book or hearing a sermon. It will require a dependence and satisfaction in God. He knows what is best and what is needed in our lives. We must trust him and not money.

Too often we take our eyes off God and put them on earthly pursuits, with money most often at the top of our lists. Money has an incredible power, much like a magnet and more like a god than most of us are willing to admit, to draw us away from those things that are eternal and life-filling.

Always be on your guard with money. As the writer of Hebrews stated, "Don't love money." The heart can only love one thing at a time. When we choose to love God, we will discover the marvelous benefit of contentment. And, more importantly, we will learn that money can never satisfy the heart. Keep your focus, therefore, on God. He is enough. read more

We Are Being Watched

People with integrity walk safely, but those who follow crooked paths will slip and fall. — Proverbs 10:9

Integrity is a high standard of living based on a personal code of morality that doesn't succumb to the whim of the moment or the dictates of the majority. Integrity is to personal character what health is to the body or 20/20 vision is to the eyes. People of integrity are whole; their lives are put together. People with integrity have nothing to hide and nothing to fear. Their lives are open books. They say to a watching world, "Go ahead and look. My behavior will match my beliefs. My walk will match my talk. My character will match my confession."

Integrity is not reputation--what others think of us. It is not success--what we have accomplished. Integrity embodies the sum total of our being and our actions. It originates in who we are as believers in Jesus Christ--accepted, valued, capable, and forgiven--but it expresses itself in the way we live and behave, no matter whether we are in church on Sunday or at work on Monday or in a lonely hotel room on Tuesday or suffering in a hospital bed on Thursday.

Unfortunately, integrity is in short supply and seems to be diminishing everyday. All too frequently our integrity is discarded upon the altar of fame or fortune. Sadly, what we want to achieve is more important than what we are to be. Integrity is lost when we focus on expedience more than excellence, on progress more than purity, on riches more than righteousness.

People are watching. They watch to see if our behavior matches our belief, if our walk matches our talk, and if our character matches our confession. In a word, they watch to see if we have integrity.

How secure is your walk? Others are watching. read more

Thinking Like a Leader

Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. — Romans 12:2

Some years ago a magazine pictured a man staring out of a window; the caption read: "Why does this company pay this man $100,000 to look out a window?" The answer: Because the lifeblood of any organization lies in ideas and creative thinking. Thinking is powerful. Flying a plane, air conditioning, cell phones, vaccines, the World Wide Web--without thinking, these would have been impossible. Everything begins with a simple thought.

Ideas are a great moving force of history. We are never free to do what we cannot conceive. Having a godly mind enlarges our thinking capacity. A leader's thinking must be shaped by the following:

Vision: What is our dream? Carl Sandburg was right: "Nothing happens unless it is first a dream." Vision is a process of the mind--it's mental, not visual. Vision is seeing what everybody has seen but thinking what nobody has thought. What is needed to build a pyramid? One person who can think and ten thousand people who can grunt.

Values: What is important? Values have to do with how we treat people, how we do our work, what is vital to us. Values are the standards, the principles, and the code of conduct that characterize the organization. Values aren't dreamt; they already exist. Leaders shape and form the organization's values. Some universities decide to pour sidewalks after students have first worn a path. Where are the well-worn paths--the actions, the beliefs, the attitudes--that matter most to you? Those are your values.

Venture: What are we willing to risk? Organizations that make a difference are willing to think outside the box. For example, a company that was in the well-digging business began to think in terms of efficient and effective means of making holes, and they soon discovered that lasers dug holes better than augers. They achieved the same goal but accomplished it more efficiently.

Vehicle: What will get us there? How can we accomplish our desired outcome? A dream without a strategy is merely wishful thinking, but with a strategy it becomes powerful thinking.

Victory: What will the celebration be like? A leader thinks like a champion. The end result is to move forward, to accomplish goals, to be God's faithful servant, to celebrate being a part of God's kingdom.

Wake up and start thinking. Take off your nightcap and put on your thinking cap. Ask God to continually renew your mind. read more

Looking Ahead

The prudent understand where they are going, but fools deceive themselves. — Proverbs 14:8

Bill Walsh, the former head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, was thought eccentric because of how extensively he planned his plays in advance of each game. Most coaches would wait to see how the game unfolded, then respond with plays that seemed appropriate. Walsh wanted the game to respond to him. Walsh won several Super Bowls with his "eccentric" proactive approach. He was a coach who looked into the future.

Looking ahead is the process of creating the future before it happens. People who learn to do it "understand where they are going." Like Bill Walsh, it involves deciding your actions in advance so that your life will respond to you. What are the benefits of such a proactive pursuit?

Looking ahead gives direction. It's like using a highlighter on a roadmap to indicate where you are, where you are going, and how you are going to get there. The highlighted roadmap not only provides information for where you are going; it also suggests where you are not going.

Looking ahead helps us to create rather than react. With each step along our journey, we are faced with a choice either to create or to react. Many people spend their entire days reacting. Like goalies in hockey, with pucks flying at us all day, we react. We react to news, cars in traffic, people, events, challenges, and obstacles. A better way involves making choices and following plans.

Looking ahead saves time. "One hour of planning saves three hours of execution." Planning yields a savings return. We only have twenty-four hours in a day and 365 days in a year. If we don't use them wisely by looking ahead, we will forever forfeit those gifts.

Looking ahead reduces crisis. Our daily lives have two controlling influences: plans and pressures. When we look ahead and choose to plan, we take charge and control of our days. If we fail to look ahead, we will spend our days in crisis mode. We will fall into a trap of panic planning--planning on the fly with no time to effectively map out a strategy.

Looking ahead maximizes energy. Failing to look ahead, we dissipate our energy on less important matters, improper agendas, and lost crusades. We waste our time on the trivial many. But preparation often energizes us!

Be wise. Look ahead. It's eccentric but well worth the effort. read more

What Lights Do

If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly. — Romans 12:8

Remember the song "This Little Light of Mine?" "This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine . . ." As children, it spoke to the fact that we should show that we love Jesus. As adults, I think it has even more meaning--I think it applies to our spiritual gifts.

It's easy to run away from our spiritual gifts--as the song says, to "hide it under a bushel." It's not necessarily because of the gifts themselves but because of the risk involved. What if I mess up? Will God be disappointed with me? What will people think about me? But, it's not about me. God's Word clearly tells us that God has given us these gifts for a purpose, and if we have them, we need to use them.

I know that one of my spiritual gifts is worship. I have seen God use my music in many ways. But recently, I have realized that although I was using my gift, I still struggled with taking risks. My main instrument is my voice, but I also play the piano. I felt convicted that I needed to add playing the piano to my worship ministry. This move was a risk for me. Why? Because I was afraid of disappointing people. I'm a musician--what would they think if I failed at the piano?

I've had to remind myself that it doesn't matter what people may think but what God thinks. I've found that using my piano skills has added to my ministry, has changed my heart, and hasn't changed what people think of me. Yes, it feels risky--but who wants to live under a bushel, really!

So, if God has blessed you with the ability to encourage others or show kindness, look for the extra step you can take to help someone. If God has blessed you financially, then use your money for his purposes. And if God has given you the gift of leadership, get up, start moving, and find ways that you can lead others. Stop following and start leading. God has gifted you for a reason. Avoid bushels. Trust him to use you. read more

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